Frank Coleman of Charleston isn’t going to let recent events stop him from buying the video games on his sons’ Christmas lists.
“Don’t get me wrong, I was hit as hard by the shootings in Connecticut as anyone else,” he said. “But I don’t think video games are to blame.”
His sons, both in their late teens, play violent games, but they also play sports games on their Xbox, he said.
“Blowing away aliens or anything else in a game isn’t going to make them killers, any more than playing Madden is going to make them pro football players,” he said.
Since the Dec. 14 shootings, many are questioning the role the games might have played in the life of Adam Lanza, 20, who killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“It’s natural that scenarios like this often create a moral panic,” said Summerville family counselor Sherrie Young. “People need to find something to blame, whether it’s bullying or video games or violence on TV or lack of gun control.”
Officials have not released details about Lanza’s use of games, but chances are that he played them. A 2008 Pew Internet & American Life report found that 99 percent of American teenage boys and 97 percent of girls did, as did 81 percent of all adults ages 18 to 29.
West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced a bill last week that would require the National Academy of Sciences to report within 18 months on violent video games and other programming’s effects on children.
In a statement, he said, “At times like this, we need to take a comprehensive look at all the ways we can keep our kids safe. I have long expressed concern about the impact of the violent content our kids see and interact with every day.”
The National Rifle Association agrees. On Friday, Executive Director Wayne LaPierre blamed video games for violence, saying they are part of a “callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people.”
The debate over the games’ effect is as old as the games themselves.
In 1976, an arcade game called “Death Race” was labeled “morbid” by the national Safety Council and featured in a “60 Minutes” story on violence in games, according to CNN. The computer game “Doom” hit the spotlight in 1999 when it was revealed that the duo who committed the massacre at Columbine High School were players.
The U.S. Supreme Court says the games are protected speech. Supporters say gaming improves reasoning skills and eye-hand coordination, and some even call them cathartic.
“Sometimes, it just makes you feel better to escape into a video game for an hour or two,” said Daniel Finley, 17, of Summerville.
Detractors say the games can lead to aggressive behavior, loss of empathy, desensitization to violence, nightmares and fear of being harmed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ position is that “Exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games, represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents.”
It is the parents’ responsibility to protect their children, said Marisa Pena of Goose Creek.
“Being an active and involved parent is being a good parent,” she said.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.